From the 1930s to the 1950s, events like the Alpine Trials became known as rally races, when not just speed but vehicle reliability and navigation skills became essential factors in winning an event. Back then, only extra lights and studded tires (for winter events) distinguished the vehicles form stock cars, and the team had no helmets, harnesses or two-way radios-just a mechanic, driver and navigator.

The Coupe D'Or (Gold Cup) was the prize for three consecutive penalty-free Alpines. Winners included Maurice Gastonides and Stirling Moss, with Paddy Hopkirk garnering a Coupe D'Argent (Silver Cup) for three non-consecutive runs.

In the 1963 rally, the overall winner was R Aaltonen/A Ambrose first overall and first in class in 277 EBL, 1071 Cooper S.

MINI's Alpine Achievements
BMW achieved success early in the event's history, securing a win in 1929 in the Dixi model (related to the Austin Seven) and again in 1934 with a larger six-cylinder 315/1. A few decades later, Mini, which would later come under the BMW umbrella, began its championship run, winning a class in the 1960 event with the 850 model.

However, Mini's true domination on the Alpine slopes began with the introduction of the Cooper S in 1963. That year, driver Rauno Aaltonen led the touring car category from starting pistol to finish line; Pauline Mayman won the Coupes des Dames in a Mini, and a privately entered Cooper captured the team prize. The following year, the 1275cc Cooper S won the Tulip Rally, a separate event, and Aaltonen won the Alps event again. The next year, 1965, brought even better results: 27 rally trophies.

By the mid '60s, Mini had established itself as a spitfire force to be reckoned with on the racing circuit. Although 1966 was an unsuccessful year, in 1967 the team used a navigation/communication system that involved intensive note-taking in advance and relaying the information to the driver via intercom. The system, which is still in use today, is less sophisticated than a computer but clearly reliable-it helped Mini win in Monte Carlo throughout the decade.

The Coupes des Alpes was held until 1973, when the World Rally Championship, the organization that oversees rally racing across the globe, took it off the circuit.

By Sue Mead
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